Performance and the Quest for Identity among Communities of Bangladeshi Heritage in the UK

A talk by Sudip Chakroborthy

The third and final event in the CCL’s Postcolonial Theatre series, May 2023

Thursday 25 May 2023, 6pm BST (online)


My current practice research seeks to decode and encode questions of identity among twenty-first-century communities of Bangladeshi heritage in Glasgow, Scotland. I seek to understand how their history of involvement as Lascars (South Asian sailors) in British merchant ships in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been memorialised by local communities.

To this end, I have conducted community events including workshops, which resulted in the May 2022 production of LASCARi (Lascar Ami, or I am Lascar), staged on the Tall Ship in Glasgow. Under the aegis of the Bangladesh Association Glasgow and in cooperation with the Glasgow Museum, the show included group-devised dialogue, verbatim based on email exchange, interviews and photographs, and was followed by curated post-show conversations.

LASCARi exposes the discriminatory language with which these sailors were called as well as the exploitation they suffered, since Asian sailors were subject to employment conditions that were inferior to their British counterparts, notably much reduced pay, and far smaller living space and food and fresh water rations than their fellow white sailors. By employing Lascars rather than European sailors the British shipping industry made large savings, thereby increasing their profits: yet another example of the way in which the wealth of the United Kingdom has been built on the back of, and with the backs of, subjects from across its former Empire.

My presentation will reflect both on the history of the Lascars and their migration to Scotland, and their role in the construction of identity for Glasgow-based communities of Bangladeshi heritage today. In addition, it highlights the important part played by theatre and performance in this construction of identity.

The talk will be chaired by Clare Finburgh Delijani.

Attendance is free but booking will be essential to receive a link to attend. BOOKING HAS NOW CLOSED.

Watch the recording of the seminar:


The participants:

Sudip Chakroborthy is a theatre director and designer whose shows have been performed on international stages in Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, South Korea, Iran, France, England, Scotland, Wales, the USA and Canada.​ In 2021 he obtained a PhD from Goldsmiths, University of London and he is now Associate Professor in Performance Studies at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, as well as teacher of ‘Asian Theatre’ at Goldsmiths.


Clare Finburgh Delijani is Deputy Director of the Goldsmiths Centre for Comparative Literature, Professor in the Department of Theatre and Performance, and recipient of a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2023-6). She has written and edited many books and articles on theatre from the UK, France and the French-speaking world, and is currently writing Spectres of Empire: Performing Postcoloniality in France(contracted with Liverpool University Press) on theatre that addresses France’s colonial past, and postcolonial present.